Natsu Day 2 Preview

I am trying to not think about the creepy silence during this basho, but instead look forward to the new camera angles that give me new ways to appreciate the mechanics of sumo. I talked about getting a new view of how some of the better rikishi of the day conduct their matches in the day 1 highlights, and to me its a big deal. I am sure for sumo fans in Japan and specifically in Tokyo, watching practice at the heya would provide some of the same insights. But for a yank watching from afar, it’s really quite engaging.

It was almost a clean sweep for the named ranks on day 1, with Daieisho being the only one of the clan to hit the clay. But even he looked sharp, and nearly gave the lead Ozeki a loss on opening day. At least one of the named ranks will take a loss again today, as Takakeisho faces off against the original tadpole himself, Mitakeumi. Expectations are low on Mitakeumi this tournament, so I think the pressure is off and we may see some really solid sumo from him. At least during week 1.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ishiura vs Chiyomaru – Ishiura can struggle with much larger opponents – with his day 1 loss to Kaisei being a great example. He does have a solid formula for winning against the bulbous Chiyomaru, with a near even 8-9 career record. A word of caution, he has not beaten the spheroid man in the last 5 attempts.

Akua vs Chiyotairyu – Oddly enough, these two veterans have never had a match before. Let’s fix that at once! Akua has a bit of a rusty start day 1, but he will break into fighting form within the first act. Chiyotairyu’s day 1 fight with Daiamami was near perfect form for him, and I doubt that we will see Akua give him the same opportunity.

Kaisei vs Daiamami – This really comes down to what kind of condition Kaisei’s body is in this May. If he’s reasonably healthy, I can see him using his enormity and power, this far down the banzuke, to dominate most of his matches. There are actually several high-skill vets clogging up the bottom ranks, and it will start to get brutal, I predict, some time in week 2.

Kotoeko vs Akiseyama – Akiseyama’s sheer bulk tends to be a foil for Kotoeko speed and compact strength. Kotoeko has taken both prior matches this year, for an overall 4-5 record. I Akiseyama, to my eye, did look a bit rusty day 1 in his loss to Okinoumi.

Kotonowaka vs Okinoumi – Speaking of high-skill veterans, Okinoumi might possibly be able to pretzel Kotonowaka within the first 5 seconds of a match, provided that the surprisingly low ranked Sadogatake heyagashira continues to look like he did day 1 against Terutsuyoshi. I don’t think Okinoumi will use the same level of maneuver and evasion, so maybe this match may be more to Kotonowaka’s liking.

Chiyoshoma vs Terutsuyoshi – Two fast, nimble rikishi who are willing to pull slippery moves out of the bag and deploy them from the tachiai? Why, yes please! They have a 3-3 career record, and this match offers a slim chance of the elusive double-henka.

Shimanoumi vs Tamawashi – Shimanoumi has not lost to Tamawashi, ever. He holds a 2-0 advantage, but looked really shabby day 1 against Endo. By contrast, Tamawashi seems to have shown up dialed in and ready to dominate. This could be the day their career record flips to 2-1.

Kagayaki vs Endo – Long time readers know I do enjoy Kagayaki’s sumo when he’s fighting well. Which as not been since January of 2020. How he has managed to end up as Maegashira 9 after going 5-10, 6-9 and 6-9 from M3e, I will never know. But today he’s going to get spanked by Endo, I think.

Tochinoshin vs Tsurugisho – First time match between to big, big guys. Both of them lost day 1, and both of them are certainly focused on turning that around. It’s kind of early to pair up the zero loss crowd, but hey – why not.

Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – This is always a fun match, because Takarafuji usually tries to wear Ichinojo out. Which only happens once in a while. So instead you get Ichinojo accepting the defend and extend match format, and going all boulder against the man with no neck. Suddenly forced to cope with nearly half a ton of Mongolian granite, even the mighty Takarafuji will begin to question is choices. Then, Ichinojo wakes up and the match ends. He holds a 12-3 advantage over Takarafuji.

Hoshoryu vs Hidenoumi – This one has some nice potential, though I think due to the banzuke train wreck coming out of March, both men are a bit over ranked. They have matched twice before, and split the two. Hidenoumi took the match last tournament, and may have a slight edge on day 2.

Onosho vs Myogiryu – For Myogiryu to come out of this match the winner, he needs to not let Onosho bracket him, or allow him to lean in. We all know that Onosho has basically one fight plan, and by golly he is going to run it no matter what. When it works, is hard to stop him, but the trick is to make sure he never gets that far. Onosho holds a 6-3 career lead.

Kiribayama vs Daieisho – I kind of think that Daieisho should have put the doom on Asanoyama day 1, so I am looking for him to make it up against Kiribayama on day 2. Kiribayama has taken their last 2 matches to hold a 3-1 career record against the Hatsu yusho winner. II expect that Daieisho will open strong as is his custom, so Kiribayama will need to steady his balance at the tachiai.

Takayasu vs Chiyonokuni – I would guess Takayasu is healthy enough he is back to his wild-man sumo. This is a perfect match for Chiyonokuni’s brand of sumo. The career record reads 5-1, but these two have not fought since 2018, and a lot has happened since then. I look forward to seeing what Chiyonokuni can do today.

Tobizaru vs Takanosho – It’s flying monkey vs onigiri-kun. Takanosho looked brutally focused day 1 against Chiyonokuni, and Tobizaru may get run down and tossed away without ceremony. Takanosho holds a 5-2 career advantage.

Asanoyama vs Meisei – Asanoyama did look a bit rusty as Daieisho nearly took him out on day 1. Hopefully he has dialed up his intensity quite a bit, and is ready for what Meisei is going to unleash on him day 2. True, Meisei has only taken 1 of their prior 6 matches, but if Asanoyama wants to remain the top Ozeki, he needs to dominate these week 1 fights.

Hokutofuji vs Terunofuji – It’s early to say it, but each tournament I look for signs that Hokutofuji is hot on the trail of achieving “The Most Powerful Make-Koshi In All Of Sumo”, which seems to be his forte. Today we get to see what he can do against a kaiju with no knees. All joking aside, Terunofuji did look a bit creaky on day 1, and I am just looking for him to get his 8.

Shodai vs Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage is good enough, and fast enough that he can help Shodai taste-test this tournament’s dohyo. He just needs to remove any chances that Shodai can reach into his Acme bag of cartoon sumo and deploy the unexpected or the unlikely counter-move to a well crafted attack. Shodai needs 7 more to remove kadoban and retain Ozeki.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – This first big tadpole fight of the tournament, pits two rotund examples of the amphibian sumo in the final match of the day. They come in with a 9-10 career record, but I am going to give a slight edge to Takakeisho today. He has clearly lost a good amount of flab since last year, and I think it’s been at least that long since he has been able to show as much power as he did day 1 when he sent Wakatakakage down to visit the shimpan in a heap.

Osaka Day 14 Preview

The evolution of sumo demands Darwin matches. Lots and lots of Darwin matches…

It’s the final weekend of the Haru Basho, and as odd as it has been to have nobody in the stands, I must say, as the world has gone progressively more crazy, shutting down everything, how glad I am to still have sumo to watch. The weekend promises to be sort of spectacular, with a possibly multi-way challenge for the cup on the final day, and a really disturbing number of Darwin matches. If you have not read lksumo’s write ups of the story lines or the yusho race, go check them out now.

I am going to be very interested to see what the ratings are (in Japan) for this basho. Much as in the US and the EU, all sports have been shut down as the world holds its breath and hopes they don’t start to cough. With nothing else to follow, I suspect that sumo’s numbers will be up dramatically, and just maybe that will help some people re-connect with Japan’s national sport. For fans who have been urging the NSK to throttle back on the intensity and duration of the jungyo regional tour, the jungyo following the Haru Basho has been called off or at least delayed until next year. Following senshuraku (and no senshuraku parties, I am told), the stables will return to Tokyo. For the top men of sumo, that’s 6 weeks of sequestered training, rather than a grueling tour of Japan. We don’t know what will happen for the May / Natsu basho, but given that Osaka seems to have worked, they may conduct the next tournament in the same way. If so, most of the world will be 10 weeks into societal disruption of some level, and it will be wonderful to see the ranks of the top division come together for a brutal 15 days of sumo, fresh from 6 weeks of non-stop training.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Kotonowaka vs Nishikigi – After opening strong, Kotonowaka has lost his last 4, and just can’t seem to cross the kachi-koshi line. He had better win today, or it’s Darwin time for him. He won the only prior match with already make-koshi Nishikigi.

Ishiura vs Meisei – What a position. If Meisei loses today, it’s make-koshi time, and likely a trip on the Juryo demotion barge. If he wins, it’s into the hell of a day 15 Darwin match. He holds a 3-1 career lead over Ishiura.

Shimanoumi vs Ikioi – The converse for this match—if Shimanoumi wins, he reaches the safety of kachi-koshi, and if he loses, it’s Darwin for him as well. Though he won the only prior match with Ikioi, the Osaka native is looking fairly genki, so hold on tight, this one could get rough.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh and the brutality continues! Winner of today’s match is kachi-koshi, loser goes into the Darwin pool for day 15. Now Kotoshogiku holds a 16-2 advantage over Chiyotairyu, and he seems to have found some magic knee grease to keep what’s left of his patellas moving. Chiyotairyu has about 3 seconds at the tachiai to take care of business, and after that I am sure the Kyushu Bulldozer will lower the blade.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Can you sense a theme here? Winner: kachi-koshi, Loser: DARWIN! As a bonus it’s the spherical Chiyomaru vs the Isegahama mobile attack platform, Terutsuyoshi. Whose sumo will reign supreme? (Oh, sorry – this is not kitchen stadium…)

Azumaryu vs Tochiozan – They had to slide the battle of the damned in here somewhere, so let’s take a look at a couple of sad cases of violent, explosive demotion. Tochiozan could very well end up being the skipper of the Juryo barge. And I don’t see how he can prevent Azumaryu throwing him overboard to try to save his own Maegashira 16 self. [Note: this is Azumaryu’s 7th basho ranked in the top division. He sat out one, and finished make-koshi in each of the other 6, including the current one. Twice, he dodged demotion with a 7-8 record, most recently in January. -lksumo]

Shohozan vs Sadanoumi – It’s another game of “Blow the man down” as fellow grizzled veteran Shohozan takes on water. He holds a 10-4 career advantage over Sadanoumi and his speed sumo. But right now Shohozan is lacking quite a bit, probably due to injuries, and I worry he is gone from the top division after the next tournament.

Daiamami vs Tamawashi – In still more demotion follies, it’s Daiamami on the bubble for Juryo in this match, as already make-koshi Tamawashi works to muster enough genki to send the Oitekaze man into exile in the junior division. This is a first-time match between the two, so who knows what kind of fight they will choose.

Enho vs Myogiryu – Have you had enough brutality yet? No, you have not! Because here comes another. Myogiryu is already in the double-digit-loss column, and he’s headed south in a big way. No, not onto the Juryo barge, but he’s going to be able to see Juryo from where he ends up. Enho will probably use his high-mobility sumo this time, and may end the tournament 7-8. I have to wonder if he has some injury.

Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – A Yutakayama win today, and he’s kachi-koshi. A loss and he joins the ranks of the Darwin meat grinder. Tochinoshin is already make-koshi, and clearly in a bunch of pain along with having mobility and power problems. So I am going to guess that the “Big Unit” is going to get his first win over the former Ozeki today.

Takanosho vs Mitakeumi – Yes! It’s the first of our big matches! Both are 10-3, both are fighting very well, and only one of them can exit with their 11th win. If its Mitakeumi, the Ozeki talk may start up again. He certainly has shown better sumo than injured Takakeisho, and sumo really needs like 3 more Ozeki. But then there is Takanosho. This guy really has over-performed this March, and I hope it’s the shape of things to come.

Okinoumi vs Kiribayama – And yet again – Winner is kachi-koshi, loser joins the Darwin crew for day 15. It’s going to be a blood bath of epic proportions Sunday, yes indeed. This is a first-time match, so some guesswork will be required by both rikishi as far as tactics to use. I expect Okinoumi to dive inside and try to get his favorite grip, and Kiribayama to try and stay mobile.

Kaisei vs Tokushoryu – Will kachi-koshi Kaisei take pity on the Hatsu yusho winner? I am not suggesting match fixing, but Tokushoryu is already at double digit losses, and these two have some history together (9-3 advantage Kaisei).

Daieisho vs Ryuden – Daieisho needs a win to avoid joining the Darwin crew on day 15. He’s up against make-koshi Ryuden, who has lost 5 out of the last 6 matches. Ouch!

Hokutofuji vs Kagayaki – Hokutofuji, who is also suspected of nursing some form of injury, is already at double-digit losses, and will be trebuchet’d down the banzuke with a resounding, fleshy thud. But if he drops into the double-digits of Maegashira land, and can recover his health, he is going to be an absolute terror in the next tournament. If Kagayaki wins – a nice kachi-koshi for March. If he loses to Cap’n Stompy – that’s right, MOAR DARWIN!

Abi vs Endo – Abi beat the stuffing out of Shodai on day 13, only to find that he was mostly made of sawdust and burlap moments before the golem of Shodai hurled him down. That would be enough to shake any man to his soul, but he’s going to try to give Endo the business today. Yeah, Endo has a one track mind of that right hand frontal mawashi grip. But if Abi can breath some life into the embers of his sumo, its… MOAR DARWIN FOR ENDO! Abi holds a 7-2 career advantage.

Takarafuji vs Shodai – Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, and he’s really done a solid job of earning it this tournament. But how far does he want to run up the score? At Maegashira 7, he’s already a candidate for the joi-jin. If he beats Shodai, he’s going to be in the thick of it next time. If Shodai wins today, he’s going home with a well deserved 8th win, and a retention of his Sekiwake rank. If not, well… its… DARWIN TIME!

Takakeisho vs Onosho – Readers know I have been looking forward to this match for over a year. Yes, I had to wait to the penultimate day to get my tadpole battle Royale, but here it is. I just wish that Takakeisho were in better condition. They are tied 2-2 across their career, but I am going to guess that Takakeisho takes Onosho apart, which means the Ozeki gets to play with the Darwin troopers. A loss and he is kadoban.

Hakuho vs Aoiyama – A word to Big Dan Aoiyama. Fire up the V-Twin and open the throttle. Yes, the boss is probably going to put you on the clay, but ride this one out hard and fast. Give him everything in your powerful, moving forward style. It’s what the fans want to see, and you just might get the job done.

Asanoyama vs Kakuryu – High-stakes match. A win here and I am going to guess that Asanoyama becomes worthy of consideration for Ozeki. Even though the discussed number is 12 (and it should be), the NSK may look at the banzuke and decide they need another Ozeki, stat. He has beaten Kakuryu before, so it’s possible. But Kakuryu of Haru 2020 is a focused, forceful Yokozuna who has ample skill and power to deal with this upstart from Toyama.